Complete RFID Solutions Hit the Market

By Mark Roberti

Many companies are offering more than just tags or readers, and that's good news for end users.

As a strong believer in the benefits that radio frequency identification can deliver, as well as a very public advocate for the technology, I'm often asked, "If RFID is so great, how come everyone isn't using it?"

That's a good question—and there are a lot of answers: Businesses are slow to embrace change, adopting new technologies involves risk and so forth. But one big reason that RFID technology has not yet been more widely adopted is that there is a dearth of complete solutions available. End users looking to track finished goods, work-in-process, tools or other items must often buy readers from one company, purchase tags from another and obtain software from yet another, and then hire a fourth firm to put it all together. Working with four companies increases the risk and complexity of any deployment, and so many businesses shy away from deployment.

But that's beginning to change. Just this month, we published three stories involving complete RFID solutions. A company known as Kit Check has designed a system for identifying drugs in kits that are put in crash carts, so hospitals can quickly find and remove any recalled drugs that may be in the carts. The solution comes with a Zebra Technologies printer, a scanning station with a built-in RFID reader and software (see North Carolina Hospital Identifies Recalled Drugs Via RFID).

William Frick & Co., a manufacturer of durable transponders, recently introduced the SmartCat Asset Tracking System, which consists of a ruggedized handheld passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) reader, software on the device to manage the collected data and durable tags for assets. The system was developed for municipalities that cannot afford to integrate an RFID solution with their existing back-end system. It enables them to use RFID to track and manage the many assets they own or are responsible for, such as traffic lights and computers, using an off-the-shelf solution (see William Frick Offers Municipalities a Low-Cost Solution for Tracking City Assets).

And MAINTag, a provider of RFID technology to the aerospace industry, is releasing a solution for tracking and maintaining cabin equipment aboard aircraft via an Apple iPad or Android-based tablet, using an RFID reader connected to the tablet. The solution, known as FLYcheck, is expected to be made commercially available on Sept. 15, and will feature MAINTag's newly released WAVEbox Cube UHF RFID reader that attaches to a tablet's carrying case. FLYcheck also includes MAINTag's FLYtag Fiber tags and hosted software, enabling a user to track the location and status of tagged equipment, such as life vests and oxygen canisters, via a Web browser (see Tablet App Enables RFID Tracking of Aircraft Safety Equipment).

I've also noticed that the Product Developments section of our digital magazine is featuring more complete solutions. In the January/February issue, we wrote about file-tracking and -management solutions from ATM Software Solutions, FileTrail, The Smart Folder and Virtual Doxx (see RFID File-Tracking Solutions). The March/April issue covered laundry solutions from InvoTech Systems, RFID Laundry Consultant and Towel Tracker (see Coming Clean About RFID Laundry Systems). The story in the July/August issue provides details regarding six complete solutions for jewelry tracking (see A Gem of a Solution). And our upcoming November/December issue will focus on several real-time personnel safety solutions.

What this means for end users is that they no longer have to do the heavy lifting themselves, or take on all of the risks. You don't need to worry about buying tags and readers that employ the same standard but wind up not working together due to a problem with the reader firmware (or some other completely unexpected problem). That's the solution provider's headache now.

An out-of the-box solution might not do everything your company wants it to do, but if it does the main thing you want and delivers a healthy return on investment with much less risk, then that's much more attractive than building a system from scratch.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.